This the latest installment in a series by Steve Roach about the
Peace dollar from the October 2015 issue of Coin World Monthly.
George Morgan, more familiar than de Francisci with producing
effective designs that could be used for mass-produced circulating
coinage, modified the reverse to remove the broken sword, strengthen
the rays, and then conceal the re-engraving. Working with both the hub
and the master die, Morgan extended the olive branch to cover the
sword and on the afternoon of Dec. 24, Baker wrote to Treasury
Secretary Mellon presenting models of the proposed dollar, noting, “A
slight alteration of the design for the reverse, as originally
submitted, has been made in order to eliminate the broken sword.”
The cooperation that took place to make this dollar happen during
the holiday season and with an ambitious high relief design for
circulation coins is truly remarkable. The Mint’s last experience with
mass producing high relief coins was back in 1907 with the
Saint-Gaudens, High Relief double eagle and that experiment resulted
in beautiful, but seemingly impractical coins.
The entire 1921 Peace, High Relief dollar production of 1,006,473
dollars was completed in just four days between Dec. 28 and 31, and de
Francisci supervised the production of the first coins.
Proofs in various qualities were also struck and, once 1921
production ended, Morgan got to work producing new 1922 Peace, High
Relief dollar hubs taking into account the need for extending die life.
Recent research published by John Dannreuther in the May 2015 issue
of The Numismatist shows that the Proof coins produced in 1921
and 1922 served as trials for subtle design modifications. In recent
years, examples of these Proof coins and special strikings have come
to market traced from the estate of Mint Director Baker.
While typical Morgan dollar dies could strike up to 200,000 coins,
the 1921 Peace dollars saw an average die life of less than 25,000
coins per die pair and the design did not strike fully, making most
surviving examples weakly struck.
De Francisci received 50 of his new 1921 Peace, High Relief dollars
on Jan. 5, 1922, with Morgan writing, “I know you will be
disappointed, but the pressure necessary to bring up the work was so
destructive to the dies that we got tired of putting new dies in. …”
De Francisci replied, “I had to agree with you in being disappointed
over the results of the first strikes, however considering the speed
we both had in this work the result seems rather satisfactory.” The
artist then suggested more artistic ways to improve die life than to
change the curvature of the ground, which Morgan proposed.
The first 1921 coins were released to the public on Jan. 4, 1922,
through the Federal Reserve Bank in New York and each customer was
allowed a single dollar. The next day the New York Tribune
looked at the dollar as a fitting continuation of the artistic
movement in coinage started by Theodore Roosevelt at the start of the
20th century writing, “The new design follows the ideals urged by
Saint-Gaudens and others concerning richness and suggestiveness for
After negotiation in January 1922, on Feb. 2, de Francisci wrote to
Baker informing him that he would create a new obverse in lower
relief, delivered the new low-relief models on Feb. 6 and production
of the new 1922 Peace, Low Relief dollars began at the Philadelphia
Mint on Feb. 13. The Denver and San Francisco Mints began production
on Feb. 21 and Feb. 23, respectively.